At Ross car boot sale on Sunday we bought three blue hyacinths and they have just started to open up. I’ve displayed them in a bark bowl that we already had and covered the pots with a layer of moss that Robin raked off the front lawn. Hyacinths have become inextricably linked with Christmas but have to be ‘forced’ to flower at this time as they would naturally flower in spring along with daffodils and tulips.
Blue-flowered varieties often have the strongest scent but they also come in white, pink, cream, yellow and the more unusual peach and maroon. In their natural habit around the east Mediterranean they are pale blue and delicate in appearance, but still with the heavy fragrance. The petals are thick and waxy, and open out into a six-pointed star.
In the 16th century plant collectors took bulbs to Holland, the bulb-growing centre of the world, and by the 18th century they reached their peak of popularity helped by the French King Louis XV who planted them throughout his palace’s gardens. In England they were especially popular in Victorian times and Great Hyacinth shows were held.
Hyacinths do not need feeding as all the nutrients they need are contained within the bulb. This means that they can grow in water alone and decorative glass hyacinth vases can be used which have a narrow neck to hold the bulb in place above the reservoir of water. The roots grow down into the water and eventually fill the vase with their root system.